Oktoberfest in Germany begins Saturday, September 22, 2012, and ends Sunday, October 7, 2012...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marinated Greek Steak Salad

Tonight we tried out a new salad and it was a big hit.  My recipe is taken from “Over 90 Fresh & Simple Dishes” by Carrie Holcomb.    No leftovers tonight!                                              Try this one……….

Ingredients for 4 servings:

.  12 ounces boneless beef sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick or thinner if you like.  
.  1  14-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and cut into quarters.
.  ½ of a medium red onion, sliced and separated into rings.
.  ¼ cup Greek olives or pitted ripe olives.
.  1/3   cup olive oil or salad oil.
.  3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
.  2 tablespoons lemon juice
.  1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed.
.  1  tablespoon anchovy paste   (I omitted this).
.  ¼  teaspoon pepper.
.  2 large cloves garlic, minced  (I pressed).
.  3 cups torn leaf lettuce or iceberg lettuce.
.  1 cup torn radicchio or red-tip lettuce.
.  2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges.
.  ½ cup crumbled feta cheese 

Trim the fatty excess off of steaks.  Place the steaks on the unheated rack of a broiler pan.  Broil 3 inches from the heat for 6 minutes.  Turn steak and broil to desired doneness.   Cool slightly.  Cut into thin slices.  Place meat in a deep bowl along with artichoke hearts, onion, and olives  -  cover and toss with marinade.

For the marinade, in a screw-top jar combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, pepper and garlic.  Cover and shake well.  Pour marinade over the meat mixture.   Cover and chill for up to 6 hours.   (I only let it sit for 1 hour and it was perfect)

Line 4 salad bowls or plates with lettuce mixture.   Top with meat mixture.   Arrange tomato wedges around meat . Sprinkle with feta cheese and serve.


Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie is truly the comfort food of the dessert world.   As I watched it snowing again yesterday and was thinking of how to use up the sweet potatoes I have in cold storage (my garage) it hit me - Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie!    This recipe is inspired by Paula Dean.  The following is my adaptation.   It is super easy so I hope you will give it a try.


Sweet Potato Custard
2 cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes (if your puree is more than 2 cups, use it!  The more the better)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick melted butter   / plus ¼ cup for tossing with the peeled potatoes to cook in
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup milk
10 -inch unbaked pie crust ( a graham cracker crust is a perfect marriage )

Meringue Top
5 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
A sprinkling of Demerara, which is golden raw sugar crystals

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp. white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

The first thing to do is peel and cut your sweet potatoes.  Cut them into small cubes, toss with ¼ cup butter and bake in a baking dish for 35 minutes or until they are cooked to soft.

Remove from the oven and allow the baking dish to cool on a wire rack.    In about 20 minutes, dump all of the potatoes and the liquid from the baking dish into a food processor.  Pulse or run on medium until you have a smooth purée.     

Pour the  purée in a large mixing bowl and set aside.   Now, on to the crust……

You can really use any kind of crust for this pie but I have found that an old fashioned graham cracker crust is an absolutely perfect bed for the luscious sweet  potato custard.

If you have boxed graham cracker crumbs great.  If you do not, toss approximately 10 whole graham crackers in a food processor and pulse until you have very fine crumbs.   When you have a nice bed of crumbs add the sugar, melted butter or margarine, and cinnamon and pulse again until well blended .

Press mixture into a  9 or 10 inch pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 5 minutes.   This is just long enough to dry and set the crust.  You do not want it toasty as it will be set back into the oven two more times.

Set the finished crust aside and proceed with the filling.

Now, as my sidekick cheers me on.....    

on to the filling.....

For the filling, using an electric hand mixer, combine the pureed s/potatoes, brown sugar, the butter, eggs, vanilla,bourbon, salt, and spices. Mix thoroughly. Add the milk and continue to mix. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 45 - 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Place the pie on a rack and cool to room temperature before covering with meringue.

For the meringue, using an electric mixer, and a glass bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in the 1/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is glossy and stiff, but not dry. With a rubber spatula, spoon the meringue onto the pie, forming peaks. Make sure the meringue touches the crust all around. Sprinkle with a pinch of granulated or gold crystals and Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until delicately browned.       Cool and serve.   


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sautéed Spinach

A lovely, healthy side dish is beautiful green spinach.   It is so easy to sauté up a pan of it and use as a bed or side to a chop or steak.   Here is how I do it:


1 to 2 pounds baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic pressed ( a garlic press is a great tool)
Salt – just a dash or to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste


Rinse the spinach well in cold water and break off any stems. If you have one, spin the rinsed leaves dry in a salad spinner.  If not, pat a flat pile of the rinsed spinach with a paper towel.

In a stir-fry pan or large pot, add the oil and press the garlic over it  - mix it around with a wooden spoon sautéing the garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add all the spinach, the salt, and pepper to the pot, toss it with the garlic and oil, and cook on medium.   Continue to toss and move the spinach as it wilts and then begins shrinking.   Cooking is done when it has reached your desired softness.     Serve hot.

I served this dish with grilled venison and leftover Gnocchi  (see Gnocchi recipe under pasta).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mango Upside-Down Cake

I received a beautiful basket of mangos Saturday and have been thinking about ways to use them in a manner we have not before.   Of course we have enjoyed them just sliced and incorporated into a yummy salad.   I will use one or two of them to make a salsa, but I really wanted to try something fun……     How about a mango upside-down cake?    Well, the decision was easy – now we need a great recipe so the lovely fruit is not wasted.   Not finding one among my cookbooks, I decided to use a recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from “Williams-Sonoma Fruit Dessert” and tweak it a bit.   The following recipe is my adaptation.

Mango Upside-Down Cake


Vegetable Oil Spray
3 ripe Mangos
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. rum
8 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350F.   Lightly coat a 9 inch round cake pan with vegetable oil spray.   I used an oblong pan as I wanted to use a pretty new platter and thought since the cake is a variation, why not the shape too?

Peel and slice mango’s in long ½ inch slices and set aside.

In a sauce pan over medium heat , melt the butter.   Add the brown sugar and stir until small bubbles appear (2-3 minutes). 
Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the prepared pan.  

Arrange the mango slices on top of the sugar mixture, keeping them close together.   Now, on to the cake…..

To make the cake, you should use two bowls.  In one bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla and rum - then add the butter, sugar and milk.   Use an electric mixer to beat the wet mixture until well blended. 

Now slowly add the flour mixture to the wet, continuing to mix on medium until the batter is completely smooth.

Pour the batter on top of the mango slices in the prepared pan, spreading it evenly.   

Bake until the top of the cake is lightly golden and the center springs back when touched, 35-45 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes, then turn out onto a platter and scrape the remaining juices over the top of the cake.   Let cool slightly and serve warm.      


This lovely Williams-Sonoma book is stocked by Amazon.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Italian Gnocchi -- served over sautéed vegetables and sliced grilled chicken breasts

Hi!     Well, from the title you know that we made Italian Gnocchi today.   It is something I have wanted to take a stab at for quite a while but just never had the time.  That is the upside to having this blog.  It's kind of like a job - I have to come up with something interesting and do it every day.   The down side is that I've replaced the inch I lost and have to scale back the taste testing.   My husband is loving it!    He's even doing the dishes!    Anyway, on to Gnocchi.......

The recipe is taken from a cookbook I forgot I even had and was pleased to find it while organizing my collection:  A Passion for Potatoes, by Paul Gayler.      The following is my adaptation (I used a food processor).

      2 lbs. starchy potatoes ( I used russet )
      1 egg, lightly beaten
      1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
      Garlic Salt – to taste
      Pepper – to taste

Gnocchi is a little potato dumpling and is a staple of Italian cuisine.  They are very versatile.   You can add mixed herbs, finely chopped mushrooms, or other flavorings to the dough. 

Serve with melted butter, tomato sauce, or another sauce of your choice.   I served mine with a mushroom alfredo sauce over grilled chicken breasts and sautéed yellow squash, mushrooms, and orange bell peppers.

To get started, place the potatoes (skin on) in a pot, cover with cold water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, then drain and remove potatoes to a cutting board to cool slightly so you can then remove the skins.
As soon as you can handle them remove jackets and cut warm potatoes into small cubes.   Place the cubes in a food processor and pulse with your choice of seasoning until smooth.   Allow the mixture to continue to cool in the bowl of the food processor.    When cool enough to add the egg without cooking it, give it a quick whisk and drizzle it over the potato mixture, then pulse several times to fully incorporate.  Next, add the flour a little at a time – pulsing each addition.   When all of the flour is added and incorporated, you should have a smooth almost elastic dough.
              Now, remove the mixture to a floured work surface.

To knead the dough I suggest you use dough scrapers if you have them.  If not, with very floured hands, work in additional flour until it is manageable to roll sections of the dough into long cylinders, about ¾ inch in diameter.    

 At this point you can cut the cylinders into ¾ inch lengths.  
Roll each one lightly over the tines of a fork so it is grooved all over.  
 Place each grooved piece on a floured baking tray until ready to cook.   

Now, bring a large pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat so it is simmering and add the gnocchi in batches, being careful not to crowd the pot.  Poach for  3 to 4 minutes, until the gnocchi rise to the surface.  Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well, and keep warm while you cook the rest.

It is at this point that I spooned my cooked gnocchi into an easy to make alfredo sauce which I made while poaching the gnocchi batches.   I then topped sautéed vegetables and sliced grilled chicken breast with the Alfredo/Gnocchi mixture. 

My family loved it!!    My Grandson asked when we could have pinocchios again.

Here is my recipe for easy Alfredo which I found in a Campbell’s add in my recent “Food & Wine” magazine:

2 cans (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup milk
1 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Garlic Salt to taste

Stir the soup, milk, cheese, black pepper and herbs of your choice in a pan and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling, stirring occasionally.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

A Passion for Potatoes is available through Amazon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

Well, today I baked a lemon Meringue Pie.   I have been eyeing a pretty picture and recipe from "The Vegetarian Cookbook" by Nicola Graimes for a while now and decided it was time to take the plunge.  I am a disaster with pie crust and usually opt for a Pillsbury refrigerated crust.   After mulling it over though, I thought what the heck -  if I screw it up too bad, there’s a Pillsbury in the fridge.   So, here we go:

Sweet Pastry Crust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold
1 large egg

Cut butter into small pieces and place in food processor.  Add the egg and pulse until mixed. 

Add sugar and pulse until light and fluffy.   Add flour mixture all at once and pulse just until it forms small crumbs. 

Dump the crumbs on to plastic wrap and pull the sides and ends together to press the crumbs into a disc.  

Wrap the disc up tightly and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to the desired size.  To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry.  The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.

When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll.  Unroll onto top of tart pan.  Gently lay in pan and lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan.  Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry.  With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan.  Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes).  Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten before baking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in center of oven. 

Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper.  Fill tart pan with pie weights or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. 

Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown.  Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack before filling.

While the crust is cooling let's get started on the filling - and last but not least, the meringue top!

Lemon Filling

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
1 cup cold water
2/3 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 egg yolks  
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced


3 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. Golden granulated sugar

While the crust is cooling divide the 3 eggs.   The yolks will be used in the filling and the whites will be used later in the Meringue.

 Zest the lemons and then squeeze out the juice. 

Put the cornstarch, sugar, lemon zest and water in a pan and mix thoroughly.  Put the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.   Reduce the heat and let simmer gently for 1 minute, still stirring until smooth and glossy.  Remove from the heat.  Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then beat in the butter.   Set the pan aside to cool for about 30 minutes.  

 When no longer hot, pour the mixture into the pastry shell.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites using an electric mixer until thick and soft peaks form.   Gradually add the sugar, whisking well after each addition.   The mixture should be glossy and firm. 

Spoon the meringue over the filling to cover it completely and make a seal with the pastry shell.  Swirl the meringue into peaks and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the meringue is crisp and pale gold (the center should still be soft).  Let cool before serving.

 Just a note, this cookbook is big and beautiful, with lots of pictures.  I bought it years ago, but found it is still available through Amazon.   click:  Vegetarian Cookbook

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Two: Marbled Brioche Loaf

Today I did it.   I kind of had to because I said I would – and at least a few people actually read that.   Soooo, Brioche – what was I so afraid of?   Well for one thing, Julia Child’s method is practically a two day event.   I was on the one hand intrigued and anxious to give it a try, but on the other hand a little intimidated.   Then I came across a cookbook by Nick Malgieri “The Modern Baker”, and his method is just a one-time rise and bake.   So that’s what I did.

I will give you my recipe as I did not follow his exactly.    The end result was exactly what a brioche should be: a marriage of pastry with bread.   The crust was flaky and buttery with a soft, tender interior.   It is only slightly sweet, after all, this is a bread not a cake.    The chocolate swirl was delicate and not fudgy.   I did not want a dessert effect, so I used coco powder rather than melted chocolate and I achieved exactly what I wanted.

Marbled Brioche Loaf

Brioche Dough:
½ cup milk
One envelope of Fast Rising Instant Yeast ( I used Bakipan )
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 stick cold butter (8 Tbsp.)
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon Bourbon

Chocolate Adder:
½ tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa ( I use Ghirardelli)
Pinch Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

1.    To start the brioche dough, heat the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds and test for a 110 F degree ( just warm – not hot ) temp.   Pour the milk into a small bowl and stir in the yeast with a plastic spoon – I just use a measuring spoon.   When the yeast is wet and just floating on the top add 1 cup of the flour and mix with a plastic spoon or rubber spatula, scraping the sides and mixing thoroughly.   Cover bowl with plastic and set aside for 20 minutes.  The dough will start bloating a bit and that’s a good thing.   It is your clue the yeast is activated.

2.    Combine the cold butter (cut into small bits), sugar, salt, eggs, and bourbon in the bowl of a food processor.   Pulse until the butter is evenly mixed with the other ingredients.

3.    Now you can add the starter dough to the wet ingredients.   Just distribute the dough by plops over the wet ingredients still in the food processor.  Pulse 5-7 times to mix thoroughly.   Now add the remaining flour and pulse again until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth.   Scrape down the sides of the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

4.    After the 10 minute nap, start the food processor again and run it for about 10 seconds.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.    Scrape ½ the dough out of the food  processor bowl and place it in an oiled bowl.   Cover the bowl with plastic.

5.    Now for the chocolate addition:   in a small bowl combine the baking soda, cinnamon,  and cocoa powder with a wisk.    Sprinkle the vanilla over the dough still in the food processor.   Sprinkle the dry chocolate ingredients over the vanilla/dough.    Now pulse off and on until the dough is nicely brown and smooth.    Remove the dough from the food processor and place in an oiled bowl.   Cover the bowl with plastic.     Let the bowls sit for about 30 minutes.

6.     Flour your work surface with flour and remove the plain dough and pat into a rectangle.

7.    Flour another spot on your work surface with flour and remove the chocolate dough and pat into a rectangle.

8.    Top your plain dough with the chocolate dough.   The two rectangles are now one on top of the other.    Cut sections out of the two layered rectangle and pile them up.   Press your pile together firmly and form a loaf.    Place the loaf in your pan and cover with wax paper.   Allow to rise up to 1 inch over the top of the loaf pan.   Now you can place your loaf pan into a pre-heated 350 degree oven.   Bake for about 35 minutes.   The loaf should be well risen and a deep golden brown.   

9.    Cool the loaf in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it.    Allow to cool for about 30 minutes before you cut.    Do cut yourself a slice while it is still warm.   It is a taste of heaven.

I hope you try making this marbled brioche – or even a traditional brioche, less the chocolate.     Oh, by the way, set aside a big piece to make French toast the next day.   You have not had French toast until you have had a brioche French toast!


BTW:  "The Modern Baker" is a great cookbook for this decade.  The writer employs the use of Food Processors and other tools and techniques that make it so much easier to tackle bread making. 

Just click on: